About Isabel Lyon, Twain’s Social Secretary and more…

In April of 1893 Isabel filled out an application for a passport. There is a section for a “Description of Applicant”. These are her particulars.
Stature: 4 feet 10 1/2 inches
Forehead: High
Eyes: Brown
Nose: Medium
Mouth: Medium
Chin: Small
Hair: Dark Brown
Complexion: Dark
Face: Oval

Isabel Lyon was given her notice on April 15, 1909. It included two months pay. This photograph was taken 4 months earlier (December 1908). She was 45 years old.

Farmington, Connecticut

Isabel Lyon was officially Twain’s secretary. She was part of the Twain household for less than 7 years. It did not end well. She was let go in April 1909. Her close relationship with Twain and his family and the reason’s for her dismissal, would define the rest of her life. I visited her mother’s house and the family plot in Farmington, where Isabel is buried. Isabel lived in Greenwich village before her death. Her Connecticut relatives had little contact with her. She was, as the family described, an independent woman who spoke her mind completely. After her death the family went to clean out her apartment. It was full of what they referred to as “memorabilia”. Much of the material was related to her time working for Twain, including a pipe, she often smoked, given to her as a gift by Twain. The family remembers her as very small in stature, petite. She had a great smile and a wonderful head of hair, which had turned white. She had a Siamese cat named Christopher. They had trouble catching her when they were cleaning out her apartment. The family remembers her as a bit of a recluse. She died in 1958, 9 days shy of her 96th birthday, and 48 years after Twain.

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